The question of shrink film thickness is a question anyone considering using shrink film for packaging should ask. To determine the thickness of shrink film needed the user must first determine the type of shrink film that is best for their specific application. View our previous post about shrink wrap varieties to help determine the type of shrink wrap you need.
Once the type of shrink film is determined, understanding how shrink film is measured will help. Most shrink film is measured by gauge. Polyethylene shrink film is often measured in Mil thickness. A mil is one-thousandth of an inch. This is numerically written .001. A gauge is a unit of measurement used for everything from plastic to wire and sheet metal. One gauge is one-hundredth of a mil or one hundred thousandths of an inch. Another common measurement when referring to plastic is micron. A micron, short for micrometer is one-millionth of a meter. See the conversion chart below for a better understanding.
Plastic Thickness Conversion Chart
1 Gauge = One-hundredth of a Mil
100 Gauge = One Mil Thickness
1 Gauge = .254 Microns
100 Gauge = 25.4 Microns
1 Mil = One-Thousandth of an Inch
1 Mil Also equals 25.4 Microns
Now that we have the confusion out of the way we can look at a few shrink films to help discover the proper thickness needed for each application. The easy one to start with is PVC shrink film.
PVC shrink film can be found in a variety of thicknesses, but by far the most common is a 75 gauge. The 75 gauge thickness is so common we only stock our PVC centerfold rolls in a 75 gauge thickness. We do stock our bags in a 100 gauge thickness. PVC shrink film thicknesses are easy to figure because they are not recommended for sharp, heavy objects. It is a great option for boxes, CD cases, and other uniform objects, but not for heavy pointed objects in excess of 25-30 lbs.
PVC shrink film becomes brittle and hard after heat is applied. These characteristics keep PVC shrink wrap from being the best option for wrapping heavy pointed objects. Our PVC shrink bags are thicker because they are smaller and stronger seams are ideal for bags. If you are using a PVC shrink wrap and experiencing ripping or tearing another type of film may be a better option.
As explained in several previous blog posts, polyolefin shrink film is a great option for packaging products in a wide range of industries. One of the main reasons it is preferred is because it is food safe and FDA approved.
As explained in a previous blog post, the word polyolefin means “oil like”. This explains the way polyolefin shrink film feels to the touch. Polyolefin feels oil-like or waxy. It is a much softer film than PVC. It does not contain Chloride like PVC does which is one of the main reasons it is food safe.
Polyolefin comes in a variety of stock thicknesses. The most common thicknesses are 60, 75, 80, and 100 gauge. One great feature of polyolefin shrink wrap a thicker film still offers great clarity. The advantage of using a thinner film is the roll length. Rolls of the thinner 60 gauge film are considerably longer than the 100 gauge film. Below is a breakdown of each polyolefin thickness and some general uses.
This is the thinnest stock polyolefin film we offer. Some companies use a 50 gauge film for food products, but typically a 60 gauge polyolefin film will work for most light shrink film applications.
Our 60 gauge centerfold polyolefin rolls come in lengths of 4375 feet. A 60 gauge shrink film does not require much heat to shrink or seal. It will have a fair amount of puncture and tear resistance.
The most common uses for 60 gauge polyolefin shrink film are light food applications. We have several bakeries that use a light polyolefin roll to wrap small bundles of cookies and other baked goods. Other customers commonly using a 60 gauge shrink film are stationery companies, printers, and confectioners.
Keep in mind a 60 gauge shrink film is for light applications. It is for products with limited or no sharp edges and corners. Because the 60 gauge film is lighter, it requires less heat to shrink and conform to the product. Too much heat will result in holes and burns.
Rolls of 75 gauge centerfold shrink film come in 3500 ft. thicknesses. This is the standard shrink film thickness for both PVC and Polyolefin shrink film. Even though the films are the same thickness, the polyolefin offers better tear resistance. This is because the PVC shrink wrap becomes hard after heat is applied. If a puncture does occur, tearing will quickly begin.
Polyolefin shrink film is softer and has more flex after heat is applied. The additional flex offers better puncture and tear resistance. If you have determined polyolefin shrink film is the type of film you would like to use, more than likely a 75 gauge film will work for you. If your products are in excess of 30-35 lbs. you may want to consider using a thicker 100 gauge film.
Our 100 Gauge centerfold shrink film rolls are 2625 feet in length. We recommend this thickness for anyone having troubles with burns, tears, and rips on lighter films. Because the 100 gauge film is thicker, it requires higher amounts of heat for shrinking.
We have a variety of customers that prefer the 100 gauge thickness for their applications. We recommend the 100 gauge for anything over 30-35 pounds with sharp or jagged edges. We have a variety of customers wrapping heavy wooded and metal objects with the 100 gauge polyolefin shrink film.
Polyethylene Shrink Film
This is the type of film many people think of for industrial applications. Polyethylene film can come in thicknesses up to 12 mils. Converted, that is 1200 gauge! Polyethylene shrink film is used for cases of water, pallet shrink bags, wrapping boats, and wrapping other large industrial items.
Polyethylene shrink film does not have the same shrink rate as polyolefin and PVC. The lower shrink rate often makes polyethylene preferred for printing. Many of the printed water bottle cases in the store use polyethylene shrink film.
We do not stock many polyethylene shrink film products, but we are familiar with some common thicknesses. Our pallet shrink bags are made from polyethylene shrink film. Pallet shrink bags commonly come in 4-6 mil thickness.
Most marine polyethylene shrink rolls range in thickness from 4-12 mil. The heavier thickness is often used for large heavy items. Marine shrink wrap often comes blue and white in color.
If you are still unsure what thickness of shrink film you need, call us at 1-800-441-5090. A knowledgeable member of our sales staff would love to assist you.